Young and Hungry

Critics of Iron Chef America, White House Edition, Wonder If the Fix Was In

If you haven't yet had a chance, like Y&H, to watch the Iron Chef America episode in which the not-so-secret ingredient is the White House vegetable garden, you might want to stop reading now.

Otherwise, you'll never forgive me for what I'm about to do: reveal the winner in the star-studded cook-off that pitted Mario "Orange Crush" Batali and Emeril "Bam Bam" Lagasse against Bobby "Death Smirk" Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta "I'm Surrounded by Too Much Testosterone" Comerford.

I have a reason. The New York Times' Kim Severson and Sam Sifton suggested yesterday that the fix was in during their give-and-take on the Diner's Journal blog. As in: The winner was a foregone conclusion given the fact that the show was provided access to the most powerful house in the whole stinkin' universe (American interpretation, naturally). Take a read:

K.S.Seriously, the only one who kept her peas in the basket, as it were, was Cristeta Comerford. She was cool as a cucumber, even when her pastry guy was in the weeds and Alton Brown asked her strange, overwrought and unanswerable questions. And her look was flawless throughout, which is more than I can say about the brothers. I completely heart her now. Here’s the bigger question: Was the fix in? I mean, I know reality TV isn’t exactly real, but this felt like a set up of the highest order. How are you going to get your Food Network show invited to the most powerful house in the world and not give the gold to the host team?

S.S. Let’s turn that question over to the readers. For myself, I think it would have been hard, even for British subjects like Ms. Lawson and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (Ms. Seymour’s greatest role) to deny Ms. Comerford and her employer’s vegetables the win. I think that would have been the case even if that chowder thing she and Mr. Flay made wasn’t as dodgy and weird and gross as it looked and sounded.

Also, that there was a fix would suggest the idea that Mr. Batali burned the radishes on purpose. And I love that idea. (”I charred some icicle radishes,” he said, as if this were smart cooking, when he introduced the dish. Dude! Nice try!) Because: did you see the expressions on the judges’ faces after they ate Mr. Batali’s sweet-potato raviolo, with the egg yolk inside? They were rapturous. That was a winning dish, right there. I suspect that Mr. Flay’s barbecue and tamale dish was, as well. But my feeling is he would have won with a pile of blue-corn tortillas, some honey mustard and a heap of steamed kale.

OK, readers, let's get into it. What the fix in?

  • Hill Rat

    I thought the fix was in. I've noticed over the years that Batali has laid down for a couple of chefs the Food Network seemed to be trying to push. Batali was there to (in pro wrestling parlance) put Comerford & Flay over.

  • u street girl

    I'm just sad Batali is technically not an Iron Chef anymore, I understand he and Food Network are not quite friends after they pulled Molto Mario. I was just happy to see him cooking, he's really my favorite.

  • Ella

    I think our friends at Diner's Journal our missing the mark...regardless of if "the fix" was in or not, why shouldn't Ms. Comerford have been calm and collected? She is literally paid to cook food that world leaders and various other dignitaries will find enjoyable. Isn't that far more of a high pressure situation than cooking for Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and an Olympian everyone's forgotten about? Of course she was calm! It was probably like a mini-vacation for her. This doesn't mean that the Food Network didn't feel obliged to give her the win...they may have...but I have my doubts as to whether the participants were privy to that information. I suspect they would not have been.

  • Ella

    Ugh....and by "our missing" of course I mean "are missing" I swear I'm still asleep.

  • I watched

    I wondered if the show would fix the results but in the end when they showed the judging scores, I agreed for the most part. Comerford/Flay were had more originality and focused more on displaying the "main ingredient" While the veggie clam chowder wasn't one person's favorite it was unique and others liked it. Batali/Lagassi were really great and I really wanted that sweet potato ravioli but they also burned some items and went for what they knew (in Emril's case, New Orleans). So it was close and if you had to give it up, it should have been to the White House. Anyway, it's the honorable thing to do, right?

  • Former Staffer

    Iron Chef, America or Original, went downhill after Flay won the rematch.

    ICA blows period.

  • Former Staffer

    @ U Street Girl - You can catch the Fine Living Molto Mario on

    Food Network blows. Have you ever seen Guy Fieri not like something?

    When the italian family in Pittsburgh put VEGETABLE oil in their tomato sauce after it was cooked "for texture" Guy just wolfed it down.

    Food Network has zero credibility. I mean the Neely's...come on!

  • u street girl

    Yeah Food Network does suck. I like Ina Garten, and that's about it. I much prefer the cooking shows on PBS (Have you seen Avec Eric?!).

    And thanks for the tip about Molto Mario on Hulu, Former Staffer!

  • Former Staffer

    I have not seen Avec Eric, ditto the thanks on the tip!

  • sphere777

    I didn't think much of the NYT's claims until I remembered that Mario Batali deliberately burned radishes in one of his dishes.

    He claimed that this was some sort of culinary statement but I find it hard to believe that one of the best Iron Chefs around actually thought that a burned radish would light up the judges' palates.

    So maybe it was a setup.

  • ThatCatGirl

    (1st post)

    Food Network jumped shark when the decision was made to program for diversity instead of talent. Bobby Flay getting resigned after his first episode! I miss watching Mario, but if the station did not appreciate him, it is their loss. We can still see him on the internet and buy his books.

  • Lauren

    Is there any question? Batali is a much better chef than Flay, and Lagasse clearly can cook rings around Comerford.

    Other than Nigella Lawson, the judges didn't have the credentials to judge the competition. And remember, folks, they tied for taste. The Flay/Comerford team supposedly won for plating and originality. Hard to believe, since several of their plates looked like a dog's dinner.

    It would be great to think that Batali and Lagasse graciously threw the match, but it looked to me as if they were set up to fail. They're two of the best and most famous chefs in the country. How rude and sad to slap them in the face.

    Chef Comerford clearly knows her stuff and it would have been great to learn more about food at the White House in a special that featured the garden. Food Network could have done itself proud without taking a gratuitous swipe at two of its founding superstars.

  • Garden Girl

    The most disturbing thing about this show is the fact that it's been discussed on several national radio shows that during the Clinton's tenure tons of a recycled "sludge" was brought in to enhance & fertilize the soil in which the Obama's vegetable garden now grows (apparently it wasn't veggies 'till Michelle asked for her garden).

    It's also common knowledge that this variety of sludge should NEVER be used in any areas where you grow edible plants or vegetables - especially root crops - because it contains dangerous levels of toxic metals & other bad stuff you shouldn't eat.

    I'm not an organic tree hugger granola grinder type, but as a responsible home gardener, I think it's reprehensible that no one considered this before doing this big hoo-haa show. I also think it was a rigged competition (and hope the folks who ate all that stuff don't get sick).

  • Fix Access

    Hi! I really love to read your articles.

  • Howard

    I watched the Iron Chef with Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford vs. Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse ... and the vegetables weren't the only thing that was phony. When the judges tasted the food, it was extremely obvious that they were blown away by Mario Batali's and Emeril Lagasse's food, while politely complimentary over Flay's and Comerford's food. But, since Michelle Obama's food program and her chef were on the line, the truth had to take a back seat to what was politically correct ... and, nobody, including the Food Network, wants to get on the bad side of Michelle Obama. Too bad, the Food Channel's credibility had to be sacrificed in order to appease the politically powerful.